Ford profit beats Street, widens Europe loss estimate

DETROIT, Tue Jan 29, 2013 — Ford Motor Co. posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and predicted 2013 operating profit will be about equal to its performance last year, as market share gains in the U.S. auto market offset deepening losses in Europe.

The second largest U.S. automaker expects to lose $2 billion in Europe, reflecting its deteriorating sales outlook for the region. Previously, Ford said it expected its 2013 loss in the region to be equal to last year’s levels.

But Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks predicted Ford’s losses in Europe will bottom out this year. The automaker expects to command a higher market share in both the United States and China.

In the fourth quarter, Ford reported a per-share pretax operating profit of 31 cents, better than the average analyst estimate of 25 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Fourth-quarter revenue totaled $36.5 billion, with the lion’s share coming from its North American operations, its most profitable business unit. During what is typically its weakest quarter of the year, Ford reported an operating margin of 8.4 percent in North America.

Ford unveils bolder, lighter F-150 concept truck

, Tue Jan 15, 2013 — Ford Motor Co. unveiled a concept version of its 2015 F-150 pickup truck called the “Atlas” that suggested the next generation of the best-selling vehicle in the United States will have a bolder look and be much lighter.

The F-150 concept was outfitted with the next-generation of Ford’s turbocharged engine, known as EcoBoost, to wring out more miles per gallon. The F-150 also has active grill shutters on the front of the car and on the wheels to improve aerodynamics.

The second-largest U.S. automaker is looking to boost the gas mileage of its overall lineup by cutting weight using turbocharged engines. This is done to keep up with stricter federal standards for fuel economy as well as attract the growing number of truck buyers who value fuel efficiency.

“Part of our strategy is to have all of our vehicles go on a diet in terms of weight,” Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show on Tuesday.

Ford executives stopped short of describing the kinds of materials or weight savings targeted for the new F-150. But Raj Nair, head of global product development, said Ford is exploring the use of lightweight materials like high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber across its lineup.

Ford launches TV, print ad blitz to revive Lincoln sales

DETROIT, Mon Dec 3, 2012 — Ford Motor Co. will try to generate interest in its upscale Lincoln vehicles with an ad campaign that draws on the brand’s heritage and includes its first-ever Super Bowl spot.

The campaign, which launches Monday, features a 60-second TV commercial that opens with an image of an actor playing Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president after whom the brand is named.

It also relaunches the brand under its original name, the Lincoln Motor Co.

The second-largest U.S. automaker is hoping to attract younger, more progressive buyers to its Lincoln vehicles. Lincoln developed a musty image since its sales peaked two decades ago, and by harkening back to the past, Ford aims to show a different side to it.

“This is how Lincoln started. This is how we will become great again,” the automaker says in one print advertisement that will appear in major newspapers and online media Monday.

Ford is betting that fresh designs, glossier showrooms and a personalized approach to service will help drive sales. By the end of the month, Ford dealers will receive the new Lincoln MKZ sedan, one of several models to be introduced by 2015.

By 2014, Ford plans to introduce the brand in China to take advantage of a growing appetite for luxury cars in the world’s largest auto market.

Lincoln was the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States in the 1990s, but in 2011, sales were just 85,643 — less than half the vehicles sold by Lexus, Toyota Motor Co.’s upscale brand.

GE to buy 2,000 Ford plug-in hybrid vehicles

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Tue Nov 20, 2012 – General Electric Co. will buy 2,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles made by Ford Motor Co. for its corporate fleet, the companies said on Tuesday.

As part of the deal for the Ford C-Max Energi vehicles, the automaker said it would jointly market GE’s alternative fuel infrastructure technology, including charging stations and natural gas fueling stations, to its commercial buyers.

The agreement is Ford’s largest plug-in electrified vehicle fleet sale to date.

GE, the largest U.S. conglomerate, has set a target to convert half of its global fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. The purchase from Ford brings the number of such vehicles in GE’s fleet to more than 5,000, compared with its goal of 25,000.

In May, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said people might be disappointed in the adoption rate of electric vehicles, but his company would continue investing in battery technology to reflect its confidence in them.

Electric vehicles carry an expensive battery and typically cost more than a conventional vehicle of similar size. Sales of such vehicles thus far have been modest and below some initial expectations.

GE and Ford also said they would work with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to study GE employee driving and charging habits, with the goal of improving all-electric driving and charging performance.

Study findings will be shared with commercial customers to provide insights and help facilitate deployment of electric vehicles in their own fleets.

The C-Max Energi, which sells for nearly $30,000 after a federal tax credit, went on sale last month. It can drive about 21 miles in all-electric mode before a gas engine kicks in and gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon as rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

UAW loses grievance with Ford over ‘equity of sacrifice’

DETROIT, Thu Jul 19, 2012 – An arbitrator has sided with Ford Motor Co. in a grievance brought by unionized workers who had sought compensation for pay and benefits that the United Auto Workers employees said non-union salaried workers received, according to the UAW’s Ford Department.
The unionized workers claimed that it was in their contract with Ford that they get the same wages and benefits given to salaried workers.
The UAW Ford Department announced the arbitrator’s decision on its Facebook page.
There are about 41,000 UAW-represented Ford workers, all of them in the United States.

Ford recalls new Escape crossover over braking issue

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. is recalling some of its recently launched 2013 Escape compact sport-utility vehicles because a carpeting flaw may cause drivers to apply the brakes improperly, increasing stopping distances and the risk of crashes.
The recall affects 8,266 vehicles built between March 8 and June 7, according to papers filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Ford said improperly installed carpet padding the center console trim panel may cause a driver’s foot to contact the side of the brake pedal when it moves from the accelerator to the brake.
The automaker said that on affected vehicles it will remove the carpet padding and left-side console trim panel and replace it with a new panel. The recall begins on July 23.
One of Ford’s highest-profile launches in recent years, the Escape was the company’s second-best selling vehicle. It was the sixth best-selling vehicle overall in the United States in June, with sales of 28,500. The top seller was Ford’s F-Series truck.

Ford celebrates upgraded Louisville assembly plant

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Wed Jun 13, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. marked the upgrade of its assembly plant here on Wednesday where it has invested $600 million to add 3,100 jobs to make the new Escape small SUV.

Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields said the transformation of the Louisville plant “illustrates how Ford is going further, continuing to invest in American manufacturing and new jobs” as it makes more fuel-efficient vehicles like the Escape.

The Louisville plant opened in 1955 and the upgraded plant has been shipping the new Escape for about a month.

Ford has already added 1,800 of the hourly jobs at the plant, and will add another 1,300 more when the plant’s third shift begins work by the end of this year.

Ford said it has added more than 5,200 hourly paid jobs in the United States this year and when the Louisville plant’s third shift goes to work, more than half of the 12,000 new U.S. hourly jobs it committed to add by 2015 will be on the payroll. Ford made that commitment in early 2011.

The Louisville plant’s total hourly employment by this year’s end will be 4,200, Ford said.

The upgraded plant is more flexible, able to produce up to six different vehicles at the same time, making it one of the company’s most flexible U.S. assembly factories, Ford said.

The flexibility will allow Ford to adjust production to market changes, said Jim Tetreault, the company’s vice president of North American manufacturing.

Ford readies first set of landmark pension buyouts

DETROIT, Thu May 31, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. will pursue its boldest attempt yet to tackle a nearly $50 billion risk to its business when it begins offering lump-sum pension payout offers to 98,000 white-collar retirees and former employees this summer.

The voluntary buyouts have the potential to lop off one-third of Ford’s $49 billion U.S. pension liability, a move that could shore up the company’s credit rating and stock price. It is unclear to Ford, retirees and analysts just how many people will gamble on the offer, which pension experts described as unprecedented in its magnitude and scope.

“We think if we can get at least a meaningful number of employees, this will take billions of dollars of obligations potentially off the table,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told Reuters in an interview.

A growing concern for decades as U.S. automakers lost market share to foreign-based automakers in their home country, pension costs became an albatross for the U.S. industry with the sector’s downturn five years ago.

The offers are the latest in a series of steps Ford and its larger rival General Motors Co have taken to cut these risks. Since 2000, Ford’s U.S. pension liability has increased almost 50 percent. Several companies have asked Ford how the buyout offers will be rolled out, a sign that others may follow suit if Ford is successful.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker sketched out its pension buyout offer for current retirees when it released first-quarter earnings in April, but until now had offered few details.

As early as August, between 12,000 and 15,000 U.S.-based workers will receive the first wave of offers to swap their monthly pension checks for a one-time payment.

The offer shifts the responsibility of managing those funds from Ford to the retiree. It is rare for a company to amend an existing pension plan.

“I feel schizophrenic at times,” said Rick Popp, Ford’s director of employee benefits. “There are times when I think it will be very popular. Other times, I think nobody will take it. To us, it’s an opportunity.”

At the end of 2011, the gross pension liabilities of both GM and Ford rose to record levels, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli said. Ford finished 2011 with a global pension obligation of $74 billion, nearly double the company’s $40 billion stock market value.

Ford earnings beat Wall Street estimates; shares rise 2.4 percent

DETROIT, Fri Apr 27, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday as strong results in North America helped offset weak international results and higher taxes.

Ford shares rose 2.4 percent to $12.16 in premarket trading after its profit from continuing operations beat expectations.

Excluding one-time items, the company reported a profit of 39 cents per share compared to analyst expectations of 35 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker reported first-quarter net income of $1.40 billion, or 35 cents per share, down from the $2.55 billion, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier.

About half that drop in net income was due to a higher tax rate after Ford made an accounting change late last year, it said.

Revenue fell to $32.4 billion from $33.1 billion. Analysts had expected $31.27 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

For Europe, Ford reported a pretax loss of $149 million, hurt by dwindling auto demand as many countries there experienced recession-like conditions. It also reported a loss for its operations in Asia and Africa as well as lower earnings in South America.

Ford, Dow to explore carbon fiber use in high-volume vehicles

DETROIT, Thu Apr 12, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. and Dow Chemical Co. will work to develop cost-effective ways of using carbon fiber in high-volume cars and trucks as the No.2 U.S. automaker moves to cut vehicle weight to improve overall fuel economy.

The joint venture with Dow Automotive Systems mean Ford could start using components made from advanced carbon fiber composites in its vehicle lineup before the end of this decade. Dow Automotive is a unit of Dow Chemical.

Weight reduction is one way for automakers to boost the efficiency of their fleets in anticipation of rising oil prices and stricter fuel economy standards for upcoming model years.

By 2020, Ford aims to cut between 250 pounds and 750 pounds from its new cars and trucks, partly by using lighter materials. Shedding that weight will reduce the strain on the vehicle’s engine, allowing it to wring out more miles per gallon.

Lighter materials can also help Ford improve the range of its electric and hybrid vehicles on a single charge.

“Reducing weight will benefit the efficiency of every Ford vehicle,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technical officer. “However, it’s particularly critical to improving the range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.”

The Obama administration said automakers would have to boost the average fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year.